Learning the Craft: Academic Writing

Last week I posted about finding time to increase my reading.  This week we had a research group meeting and it started me thinking about writing again.

Pat Thomson has been writing posts over the last few weeks that have gently scaffolded my thinking and action towards the inevitable ‘elephant’ I will have to tackle…my skills as an academic writer.  I have always loved writing, I have completed units within a professional writing and editing course and can “spin a good yarn”. As a teacher I feel confident in writing tasks pitched at different audiences. I am also becoming active in writing conference papers and of course, this blog. My BB is very patiently building my exposure to the world of academic writing by guiding me through reading, discussion and response tasks almost everyday. We use email and twitter to share links and articles, and this is proving quite valuable in keeping the ideas  and conversations flowing 24/7.

My method for writing so far is to plan an outline with key points I want to make and then come back to it over time to fill in the details. This means everytime I sit down I am re-drafting and building on what I have written, adding references and clarifying ideas. While I am away (usually a few days to a week between writing opportunities) I have ideas brewing in my head which helps find relevant further reading and produces discussions that lead me to refine or expand ideas. The next time I sit down to write my head is a richer space. My style seems to be slow and steady, and this works for me. However, one blocker to my confidence remains. While I know I can write, and feedback from BB, peers, editors and publishers is that my work is well written and easy to read, in my mind I am not writing ‘academically’.  It doesn’t help that I don’t really have a clear definition of what ‘academic writing’ entails, and this is the problem. Enter Pat and her timely blog posts (and tweets)!

Pat’s recent post  has helped me to identify this stumbling block, and in a twitter conversation where she linked to another blog Practice or Flawless? | TheUniversityBlog,  where writing was compared to other skills, like music, and it made it clear to me that I am at the beginning of a learning journey. Pat also signposted 2 books that may help develop these skills: Helping Doctoral Students Write and Becoming an Academic Writer by Patricia Goodson. Pat’s book I am sourcing from my  library.  Patricia’s book I have ordered and it is on it’s way to me now. From the description of Patricia’s book, it sounds like it is set up as ‘a little writing, often’ and I know that I will be able to work it in to my study time easily. I feel a great sense of relief. I now have peers (in the faculty, on twitter and in the blogo-sphere) who are on this journey too. I have a clearer idea of what my short comings are and how to tackle them. And, perhaps most importantly, I have given myself permission not to be ‘perfect’ first time, to allow myself opportunities to learn, knowing that I WILL stumble, and that it is OK. This is a journey that will span 3 years, it will have highs and lows, but it is an ‘apprenticeship’ where I have the opportunity to grow and learn this craft.

This week I am attending a ‘shut up and write’ session at my Uni, with one of my fellow PhD students. I am really looking forward to writing in this social environment and connecting with others at my university too. I have also tried working again this week with the Pomodoro method, and managed to shift between 3 tasks more easily. Another sign that I am shifting my focus is that I have removed ‘smurf village’ from the home screen on my phone (I have not played it for nearly 4 weeks), and replaced it with a ‘simple pomodoro timer’ (free),  a sure sign of focused time management 🙂

So, thanks BB, Patter and ‘the university blog’ for helping me see and appreciate this process for what it is, a true learning journey.

Until next week

Fiona T


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Plodding along…learning isn’t always lightning fast! « mypaperlessphd
  2. Trackback: Defining my ‘blockers’ and acting to eliminate them. « mypaperlessphd

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